Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Ten Most Powerful Persons in Western Visayas

I have drawn up a list of the ten most influential Ilonggos today. But before I continue, let me first explain the criteria I used for my list. I based my conclusions mainly on the following criteria: first is the person’s ability to influence government policy which includes his/her ability to source government projects, promote advocacies, etc. Second is popularity, which could either mean their ability to inspire awe, their public awareness level, their ability to inspire people and influence public opinion, or for politicians, their ability to consistently win elections. Last but not the least is the individual’s leadership qualities i.e. good governance, competence and intelligence, power to move crowds, etc. So here it is: THE TEN MOST POWERFUL ILONGGOS TODAY.

1. Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas. By topping the 2004 senatorial race, Mar is now seen as a serious contender for the Presidency (if it still exists in 2010). As the “Great Ilonggo Hope,” local politicians, whether in the opposition or administration, all want to be in his good graces. His decision to align himself with the opposition Drilon wing of the Liberal Party has not really diminished Mar's stature in the eyes of Ilonggos. By showing that he had a "backbone," it may have even helped his political career and might have redeemed him in the eyes of non-believers.

Mar is one of the few political personages in Western Visayas who can truly claim familial ties in both Panay and Negros Occidental, his father being Senator Gerry Roxas from Capiz and his mother Judy Araneta from Bago, Negros Occidental. As the author of the bio-ethanol bill, Negros sugar planters look up to him to sheperd its passage in the Senate to grant the ailing local sugar industry a new lease in life. People see in Roxas the right blend of idealism and political pragmatism, (old) wealth and political pedigree, intelligence and mass appeal. The only question is – are Filipinos ready to elect a bachelor for president?

2. Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo. Archbishop Lagdameo is one of the most important princes of the Philippine Catholic Church today. Elected by his peers to head the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) last November 2005, he has since become a “quotable” media personality and his statements are regularly covered by national media outlets. Outspoken and sometimes controversial, Archbishop Lagdameo has led efforts to oppose the passage of the Population Management bill in Congress. He was also successful in opposing the establishment of coal-fired power plants and mining concessions in Iloilo province. As president of the very influential CBCP, he is always being courted by both administration and opposition politicians alike.

3. Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez. With Senators Roxas and Franklin Drilon no longer part of the administration coalition in the region, Secretary Gonzalez has been designated the political overlord of Panay by Malacañang. Aside from fending off coup plotters and acting as the President’s “lightning rod,” Secretary Gonzalez is also in-charge of settling minor political disputes among political allies, taking care of their needs and providing over-all party leadership in the region. Although he is much-maligned in national and local media, Secretary Gonzalez has never lost an election in Iloilo City, where he served three terms as Congressman. His apologists say that if only Erap had him instead of Serafin Cuevas as Justice Secretary, he would not have been ousted as President.

4. Congressman Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo. As the presidential brother-in-law, many perceive Iggy (rightly or wrongly) as very close to the powers-that-be. Ilonggo politicians all want to be in his good graces in the hope of bagging big infrastructure projects in their areas or having their pending requests “facilitated.” Investigated by the Senate for his participation in the “Jose Pidal” controversy years back, Congressman Iggy Arroyo is now the darling of Ilonggo politicians. Even now, pundits predict that he will easily get reelected since no one in his district has come forward to challenge him in the coming polls.

5. Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas. I included Mayor Treñas in my list of Ten Most Influential Persons not only because he is the mayor of the region’s premier city but because he is currently the President of the City Mayors’ League. As chief of the city mayors, Treñas's voice is listened to by decision makers. As a former pupil of President Arroyo at the Ateneo de Manila University, Mayor Treñas is perceived to be very close and is said to have a direct line to Malacañang. Recently, he was among the few LGU officials mentioned by GMA in her SONA speech. His grip on the mayorship of Iloilo City is very strong and pundits predict that he will easily win over former Mayor Mansueto “Mansing” Malabor in the coming elections. Dynamic, intelligent and results-oriented, Mayor Treñas is truly an up-and-coming Ilonggo politician. Incidentally, his father was once a senator of the Republic. Who knows, maybe lightning can strike twice.

6. Josette Biyo. Ma’am Biyo became an instant media celebrity when she bagged the prestigious “Intel Excellence in Teaching Award” in 2002, besting 4,000 other science teachers worldwide. She is the first Asian to win the said award. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) offered her a lucrative teaching job but she declined, saying that she preferred to go back to Iloilo to continue teaching the poor kids there. The MIT people were so impressed that they named a small planet after her (Planet Biyo which is nine kilometers in diameter and is located at the belt between Mars and Jupiter). Her book “A Trip to Planet Biyo” has become a modest bestseller and Ma’am Josette has also become a much sought-after inspirational speaker in both local and international gatherings. As the newly-appointed Principal of the Iloilo Science High School, Josette Biyo continues to inspire people to hope. I suspect that she is one of the reasons why many middle-class Ilonggos still opt to stay in the country.

7. Businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco. Although he is a transplanted Ilonggo, Danding Cojuangco has become a very influential player in Negros Occidential politics. Originally from Tarlac, Cojuangco married into the landed Oppen family of Southern Negros. Pity the local politician who incurs his ire for come election time, Cojuangco’s bottomless financial resources will come into play to ensure his/her electoral defeat. Danding’s folksy “cowboy” ways and easy humor have endeared him to his farm workers, helped no doubt by his being “galante” (a very Ilonggo trait). As chair of San Miguel Corporation, Mr. Cojuangco is seen as an important player in business circles. His son, Congressman Charlie Cojuangco (who is one his third and last term), is rumored to be being groomed by Danding to run for Mayor either in Bago City or Pontevedra town. But like his father (who seems to be enjoying farming nowadays more than politics), the younger Cojuangco also seems to be disinterested in politics as his dismal attendance record in Congress show.

8. Senator Franklin “Frank” Drilon. If this entry was written two years ago, I would have ranked Senator Drilon among the Top Five Most Powerrful list. But it seems that current events are happening not in Drilon's favor nowadays. Formerly the regional head of the Lakas-LP administration coalition in Western Visayas, Senator Drilon lost his preeminent stature for leading the “Hyatt 10” mass-resignation last year. His "withdrawal of support" seemed all the more devious because only a week before, he appeared on television telling President Arroyo to transfer Malacañang to Iloilo if “Imperial Manila” does not want her. Aside from losing his post as the region's administration party leader, Drilon also lost the Senate Presidency to Villar recently. His leadership of the Liberal Party is also being challenged by Manila Mayor Lito Atienza and the party is now currently split into two groups.

Now on his last term as senator, Drilon seems to have nowhere else to go. His prospects of bagging a Cabinet post is practically nil as of the moment (but who knows, stranger things have happened in Philippine politics). Iloilo’s gossip mills are currently abuzz with rumors that Drilon will be running for the lone district of Iloilo City or the second district of Iloilo province. But according to local news reports, he has not transferred his voter’s registration from Manila to Iloilo. Because of the one-year residency rule for local candidates, he is therefore ineligible to run in Iloilo. Drilon after all might be planning to retire from politics or go back to private law practice.

9. Energy Secretary Perpetuo “Popo” Lotilla. Hailing from the town of Sibolom, Antique, Secretary Lotilla started off as a UP Law professor and a legislative consultant in the Senate. Soft-spoken and self-effacing, it is easy to underestimate Secretary Lotilla. Due to the energy crisis currently being experienced in Panay, Ilonggos are pinning their hopes on their kasimanwa to solve the periodic brown-outs plaguing their area. The inadequate power supply is one of the most serious problems hampering the economic growth of Panay today. Even now, call centers and other BPO locators are already ruing having established operations in Iloilo City because of the brown-outs.

10. Department of Tourism Regional Director Edwin Trompeta. I have included Director Trompeta in this list in anticipation of the important role he will be playing in the region in light of President Arroyo’s SONA pronouncement earmarking Central Philippines as the premier tourist destination of the country. A competent career official, it was during his watch at the DOT-Region 6 that Boracay became a leading tourist destination and a top dollar-earner in the country. Presently, I figure that elected officials and local media people are all trying to get hold of this guy. I would if I was a mayor.

16 comments:

vic said...

Just about everyone in your list is already in the field, except for the N.6, Ms Josette Biyo. I have been following up your political landscape as compared to the one we have here in Canada. Anytime, anyone will pop in the scene that is unknown and suddenly captured the Leadership of the Party and in the right time and moment.

Take a look at our current PM, virtually unknown, average in financial standing and education, propelled to the highest office not on his merit, but by default of the party that was in Power.

Now the Liberal Party is in search of a new leader, (who may as well be the future PM), and it is a mosaic of new faces and traditional politicians. A Harvard professor (Michael Ignatieff), who is only a Canadian by citizenship and decided to take the opportunity, and a very wealthy lady (Belinda Stronach), who switched party to also take the opportunity and also leaving behind a lover in the old party and anyone of them could just be a great Prime Minister.

And by the Way, we have our share of Very Wealthy People, but Most Powerful? And just where do these people’s power emanate? From God maybe?

mong said...

ano nangyari kay rep. jun lozada, so sa tingin mo di na niya kakalabanin si jose pidal next year?

Iloilo City Boy said...

Vic / Mong:

Thank you for your comments.

Wala akong nababasa na balita kay jun lozada so i presumed he is not running.

Anonymous said...

Pidal will easily be elected. No doubt. Primarily because of his inexhaustible financial resources. He has done a good job in keeping the local oligarchs in the 5th District contented with sweet projects. However, he must not make the same mistake Lozada did, by earning the ire of the traditional elite of the area. Hence his scathing defeat in the last elections. Three "power blocs" still hold cosiderable influence in the area: Yulo, Montilla and Gatuslao. If Iggy continues to satisfy their plans for their constituents, then he's in the clear. If not, Tip O'neil provides the answer, "All politics is local," Iggy will get the boot.

jeng said...

HI,

I think you got some facts on Josette Biyo wrong. For one, she has been a faculty of Philippine Science High School - Western Visayas for more than ten years. She has been my teacher in high school, and last time I heard, she's OIC for the campus. I'm not sure though if she left Pisay to be principal of Iloilo Science High School. Or maybe she was recently appointed as Director of Pisay. I dunno.

Iloilo City Boy said...

Sorry I was probably confused because the Philippine Science High School-Western Visayas branch and the Iloilo Science High School are both located in Iloilo City. I just based my information on local news media reports. Anyway, thanks for the correction and will verify it further.

Anonymous said...

How about Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago? Can we consider her as the one of the most powerful persons in Western Visayas since she is also an administration ally? She can also influence and be heard.

Anonymous said...

Mar Roxas maybe the most powerful man in western visayas and probably poised to run as president.I can tell that you have admirations for the Roxases, however have you done some research or just plain observations on their politics and their legacy in Capiz? The Roxases ruled Capiz for three generations already and look at Capiz now, people are still riding tricycle, airport is still small the port is run so poorly that the recent consrtuction for it's expansion collapsed due to alleged corruption.Have you gone to the province and asked say, just a random sample of ten people on whether their lives were improved, after all the province produced a president, a senator, and a cabinet secretary all are related and has the same last name.You may also try to ask how many public schools in the province have access to computers? you maybe interested also to know why the politics in the province is still a dirty "TRAPO" practice,why such a politcal condition was permitted or even nurtured in the province? you probably can ask the Governor, or the city mayor, or mayors in the province or, what the heck, the SB and SP or even the Barangay captains who were elected, all under the banner of Mar Roxas. Mar made such a great effort in ensuring the win of all these people.You may also wander around the halls of key agencies in the province and you might want to ask who installed them there, and probably they will reply in unison, MAR.I'm not trying to belittle what he has done in the province, but I'm just wondering why after three generations of Roxas politics in the province, Capiz remains as is.Ah, we'll touch national politics since Mar is already a national figure, when Alfredo Lim was the Presidential standard bearer for the Liberal Party but Erap emerged as the strongest candidate, Did the Roxases supported Lim or Erap??? when Erap was in trouble they waited until it's clear that Erap will be ousted and then came out swinging.Time came when Arroyo was in trouble this time, but it was still unclear whether she will be ousted or not, what was Mar's comments, you maybe can't decipher it, it was so vague that you need a decoder in order to know his position.Only now that according to you he aligned himself with Drilon, because, survey said, Arroyo's popularity is going to the drain and you don't really want to be associated with that right?Anyway I think Mar would make a great president since he's young, he probably have some bright ideas that would propel this country of ours to greatness and beyond.He's Ilongo what could go wrong? right.

Iloilo City Boy said...

Thank you for your comments. I am quite familiar with Capiz and in fact the arguments you set forth here was the standard line of the opposition in Capiz for several elections now. In fact, you sound a lot like Bingo Altavas (the perennial opposition leader there) if I didn't know better. And since you seem so familiar with Capiz local politics, I am sure you have heard also the answer of the Roxases to the points you have raised during the several past elections.
While your claim that Capiz has not progressed thru 3 generations of Roxases may be subject to debate (I believe there is some progress naman), I respect your opinion. It may not be much to Manilan standards, but a Gaisano Mall and a Jolibee and Cebu Pacific servicing Roxas City is considered a sign of progress by Capicenos. Mar has done a lot in bringing focus to the development efforts and providing leadership to the Capiz LGU leaders. At least under his leadership, hindi watak watak ang mga projects and all follow one plan. So nung sinabi ni Mar "Seafood Capital of the Philippines" tayo, all efforts were geared towards projecting Capiz as such (Seafood Festival, Diwal Festival, etc).

If Capiz is not as "progressive" in your eyes, then maybe it is also a function of the province's geography or people. Or it may indeed, as you said, because of Trapo politics. But the fact is: people in this country do not choose their President based on how good or how successful he was in making his area grow. If this was the case, Governor Lito Osmeña would have won in 1998. If this was the case, then Mayor Jesse Robredo of Naga City or Sonny Belmonte of Quezon City would be front-runners for President in 2010.

Anonymous said...

Your observation that track record in your own backyard doesn't really count on the national level maybe true, but it will be a drag for Mar if his opponent is a crafty one that will concentrate on not what Mar has done but on what he had failed to do, and that is improve the lives of his own constituents.However Mar still got the edge, he had Korina on his side which makes his image appealing to the masses.However, what if his opponent really look like one of the common tao and can really play like an ordinary masa.Gaisano mall and others are a consequence of business epansions of these companies it doesn't require an effort from any politician, these companies will go in to your area and normally politicians will approve or allow them to operate,in order to claim that this is progress, this is a no brainer, These are not part of the pork barrels nor a special project granted by the Government on the behest of the Roxases.Seafood capital, the prawn industry which caters to thousands of people and brings in the bulk of the revenue for the seafood industry in Capiz has loooong been suffering from a dreaded diseases, so far nothing was done, the industry is almost non existent, no money was provided for research to the cure, nothing was done to prevent or clean up the pollution.The people in Pontevedra even took an iniative to supposedly set up a lab but it's langusihing due to lack of support.This is a major industry in Capiz that has suffered but almost nothing was done.This is the area where he could have shown some leadership.His opponent can concentrate on this side of the issue, if Mar cannot even rescue an industry to which the lives of thousands of his constituents depend on, how could he solve the problems in the national level. seafood capital, what are the projects that benefits the small fishermen? or where is the access to capital for small growers?People now in the province probably still look up to them as God, but time will catch up to you, when people realized, specially if there's somebody credible enough to wake them up and summon whatever courage they have to stand up and say, What have you done to us so far????Our politics is evolving and I'm glad to see areas to which for so long held by one family be able to change course by electing somebody that's one of them.Look at what happened to Governor Dy, Barbers in the south and others.There's a new middle class now that is emerging, families of OFW's who doesn't need the money of politicos,They saw something in other places, progress that they think was denied to them by these pople, so why not go for a change.I'm not saying that they haven't done anything, but the question is, with all the influence they have and they have been in power for a long time, they only could muster to put Gaisano in the city, what about the other towns? what support was given, other towns have a budget big enough only to pay the payroll and the electric bills.On the environment, Capiz forest is no more and no projects for reforestration, floods and lanslide are normal occurence, these things add burdens to business and hit hard those people who had very little in life. You probably think, that I'm a bitter opposition in Roxas, I'm not, I just see things that I don't like, I'm just a plain observer.All the stuff I'm telling you, you can read in the paper, people just don't pay attention, because Mar have a carefully crafted image,What do you think propeled Mar to become a number one senator??? a senatorial election, prior to the one that made him number one , he was still an unknown congressman from Capiz, he wasnt recogizable that time at the national level, what is the event that proppeled his popularity to the roof? you know what I mean right?His packaging is brilliant, that I admire the team that doing this stuff for him.Well again, he has still time to make up to the people of Capiz, if he will become President.Good luck.I will still probably vote for him given that he speaks Ilongo.

Anonymous said...

Nakalulungkot na isipin na mismong mga taga Iloilo ay gustong mapa-under sa mga taga Negros.

Anonymous said...

i don't quite understand where the notion that those from iloilo are being lorded over by the negrenses? and the fact that the comment said "mismong" means that the ilongos are supposed to be of a higher class or are more progressive than those from negros? I find this comment unfair and undue.

Anonymous said...

Pidal will easily be elected. No doubt. Primarily because of his inexhaustible financial resources. He has done a good job in keeping the local oligarchs in the 5th District contented with sweet projects. However, he must not make the same mistake Lozada did, by earning the ire of the traditional elite of the area. Hence his scathing defeat in the last elections. Three "power blocs" still hold cosiderable influence in the area: Yulo, Montilla and Gatuslao. If Iggy continues to satisfy their plans for their constituents, then he's in the clear. If not, Tip O'neil provides the answer, "All politics is local," Iggy will get the boot.

Anonymous said...

I would like to give you an update, Capiz is the only province in Western Visayas to receive the "food for school program" because according to SWS the children in Capiz are the ones most vulnerable to hunger. I'm utterly shocked, I cannot believe that it will go down to this, this is already the result of lack of progress and opportunity for the Capizeno, but for the Province to be singled out as the Province of "hungry children" speaks so much of the legacy of the Roxases.

Anonymous said...

We hope that Sen.Mar Roxas will become the next pres. of the Philippines one day.He got it all,that compassionate elite ,simple way.

Anonymous said...

uhmmm...about Dr. Biyo, She is was my research adviser and instructor at the Philippine Science High School-Western Visayas...correction on the school's name...and during my senior year, she was appointed as the OIC Director of the campus, and not as a principal...